Overview of Hydrogeology Bachelor's Degree Programs
Hydrogeologists are concerned with the application of principles of geology or engineering to manage natural water resources. Hydrogeology programs are challenging combinations of foundational coursework in math, physics and chemistry with topics in geosciences and hydrology. This article discusses the admission requirements and course descriptions for hydrogeology programs, and how to choose the best program for you. Hydrogeology programs prepare students to pursue graduate education or a career in the environmental industry. This article also lists salary and job outlook information for this field, as well as some related career options.
Admission Requirements for Hydrogeology Programs
Because of the heavy emphasis on math and sciences in hydrogeology programs, incoming students might need to show that they have achieved a minimum proficiency in areas such as calculus. Otherwise, the application process for hydrogeology programs typically matches that of the program's university overall. You can expect to need to submit transcripts from high school or a GED program, standardized test scores and letters of recommendations. Some programs may also request a statement of purpose or statement of interest in the field.
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Hydrogeology Program Coursework
Hydrogeology programs are both theoretical and practical, and include basic science coursework as well as courses in geology, natural resource management and engineering. A few courses often offered by these programs are described below.
Earth Materials and Geochemistry
This course introduces minerals and various rock types such as igneous, metamorphic and ore deposits. Students learn different mineral identifying techniques via lab work or field trips, in addition to lecture time. Other than identification and classification of these substances, this course covers formation processes and the systematics of crystallography.
The study of groundwater includes both surface and subsurface flow. This course discusses the factors controlling flow as well as the occurrence, chemistry and contamination of groundwater. It uses quantitative methods to analyze these factors, and may focus on regional water in particular, or a topic of interest such as pollution.
Field Methods in Geology and Hydrology
Geology and hydrology both involve working on-site in the field to identify and analyze the issues at hand. This course introduces students to the techniques required to gather, manage, analyze and report data gathered in the field. It will likely be field trip based with classroom or homework in between to process collected data. Some of the techniques covered include water sampling, mapping, measuring, well-logging and maintaining a field notebook.
Physical hydrology covers the major components of the hydrological cycle: precipitation, infiltration, evapotranspiration, and the minor components in between. This study is achieved through qualitative and quantitative analysis, building on basic math and physics knowledge. The processes are assessed and then represented using statistics, with special focus on measurement and the treatment of uncertainty in calculations.
Geological Engineering Analysis
This course focuses on engineered structures that interface with natural hydrological systems. It introduces the application of statistics and economic theory to geological data to find solutions to issues with this interface. This course might be structured to emphasize group work, with students designing projects or studying case histories to learn and practice these analytical methods.
How to Choose a Hydrogeology Program
When deciding on a hydrogeology program, you should note which approach to hydrogeology the program emphasizes. Some focus on engineering principles, while others lean more toward water resource management and sustainability. Your choice of emphasis might affect which graduate school programs or industry jobs you are most prepared for on graduation. Another factor to consider is the amount and type of practical learning offered by each program, and which type suits your learning style best. Some might include regular local or regional field trips that have weekend or multi-day commitments, some might require individual or group capstone projects, and some may have heavy laboratory components.
Career Options for a Degree in Hydrogeology
Hydrogeology professionals can work for water resource management or energy companies, or for one of many government agencies. While the US Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't have information specifically for hydrogeologists, the site reports a median annual salary in 2016 of $80,480 for hydrologists in general. It also predicts job growth in this field of 10% from 2016-2026, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Other jobs to consider include: